Thursday, February 21, 2008

Death Comes Suddenly

Today's Washington Post carried a sad story of life, death, and chance rolled into tragedy and existential void. The story describes the chance meetings, phone calls, and conversations that put people on a road in Charles County at 3 a.m. A car smashed into bystanders watching a street race and eight people are dead. One moment the crowd is cheering. Impact. Pain. Silence. Then the air fills with screams and moans. Confusion. Body parts. Death everywhere. Death came out of nowhere. It chose its victims and swiftly departed.

I read the story, morbidly fascinated. Death just comes out of nowhere, a hammer blow that flattens thirteen people, and kills eight. It's a rend of our human web. Suddenly, unexpectedly, eight people with families, jobs, friends, connections, religion, purpose are blinked out of existence and violent tears run through the fabric of family, friends, and acquaintances. Unthinkable.

When my mother and my father died after long illnesses, the family was prepared in each case. We saw death walk up the steps to the front door, and when death came, we were grateful for it being there. But sometimes death comes through the window, uninvited, unwanted, a thief. And it departs taking loved ones. After reading the news story, I could hear the breaking of hearts.